Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Criminals follow laws of statistics," by Phillip Ball. Nature Science Update, 3 March 2004.

"Committing just one crime moves youngsters into a different mathematical world," is the conclusion of a team who analyzed two very different studies of youths in North London and Pittsburgh. "The researchers expected that the number of crimes committed per person would fit a statistical distribution shaped like a bell if the criminal acts were committed by random people in the selection...instead they found that crime rates fell into a mathematical pattern called a power law, in which large deviations from average behaviour are more common. In both studies, most of the boys committed no crimes at all." The conclusion was that people who commit no crimes at all live in a different world than those who do, so the best strategy is to deter people from committing their first crime.

--- Annette Emerson